Friday, May 1, 2015

The Bird Feeding Connection

Ethan watches and counts the birds at his Illinois home for the
annual citizen science project, the Great Backyard Bird 
Count--a 21st century “practical” reason to feed the birds. 
 Participants submit data via eBird, an online checklist program.
 Sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon
 Society and Bird Studies Canada, the now global GBBC count
 reveals clues about the health of birds and our shared environment.
Photograph by Cindy Brown. Courtesy of the National Audubon Society
We three authors are excited to have our book debut on America’s WildRead, especially in conjunction with International Migratory Bird Day 2015.

In the journey we took while researching and writing Feeding Wild Birds in America: Culture, Commerce and Conservation, we discovered how many of the early efforts to promote the practice of bird feeding initiated in the Bureau of Biological Survey (as WildRead-ers know, one of the agencies that preceded the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service). BBS bird feeding flyers, posters and Farmer’s Bulletins along with bird feeding activities and materials produced by state Audubon Societies and bird preservationists, helped the general public gain “sympathy” with common birds. Much of this bird feeding enthusiasm came in the years just before passage of important bird protection laws, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. So we are delighted to have our book connected with this year’s International Migratory Bird Day and to share some of our stories—and behind-the-scenes stories—with you.

Paul J. Baicich, Margaret A. Barker, Carrol L. Henderson

We will cover several different bird feeding periods over the course of the next several weeks. And we look forward to hearing from you!  [Editor note:  Use the "Comment" link below to respond and start a conversation with the authors]

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What follows is an excerpt from the Introduction in Feeding Wild Birds inAmerica: Culture, Commerce and Conservation just published by Texas A&M University Press.

Bird feeding in the 21st century is still all about the basics: food, water and shelter. But, oh, so much has changed. Emerging out of the bird protection and conservation movement at the turn of the last century, bird feeding—while still simple and enjoyable—has since evolved into an absorbing avocation and an immense business.
This drawing of a vintage bird-feeding tray at a window is reprinted from W. L. McAtee, How to Attract Birds inNortheastern United States, Farmer’s Bulletin No. 621, U. S. Department of Agriculture, 1914. Small evergreen trees or branches were common additions to bird-feeding shelves in the early 1900s

Contrast the modern bird-feeding scene of today with high-tech feeders offering specialty foods in birdscaped gardens, to the simple one suggested by Chester A. Reed in his early Guide to the Land Birds East of the Rockies(1906): “By tying suet to limbs of trees in winter, and providing a small board upon which grains, crumbs, etc. may be sprinkled, large numbers of winter birds may be fed; of these, probably only the Chickadees will remain to nest, if they can find a suitable place.”

In the decades that followed and into the 1930s and 1940s, bird feeding grew into a widespread activity in the United States, so much so that by 1943 the venerable ornithologist Alexander Sprunt, Jr. could write in Audubon magazine, “Probably no one phase of activity connected with birds so engages the attention of the amateur student as does the attraction of birds to a feeding station. In every county, we can find someone who puts out food for the birds, particularly during the winter. Where and when such procedure began is lost in past ages, but it is not necessary to know the history to understand and sympathize with the idea.”

Although Alexander Sprunt may have claimed decades ago that it was not necessary to know the history of bird feeding to appreciate the concept and practice, the authors of this narrative are interested indeed in exploring some of the background, practices and consequences of bird feeding, at least for the United States.

Much flavors the story of bird feeding. It is now a considerable tale, involving changing relationships over generations between two main parties: birds and humans. Squirrels, hawks, cats and other animated beings enter the story, too, some more often than others. There is the “discovery of seeds, the development of different feeders, and the creation of businesses, wholly intertwined. Also woven into the story are the worlds of education, publishing, commerce, professional ornithology, citizen science, all of which have embraced bird feeding at different times and from different perspectives.
On the one hand, the story of bird feeding is the story of innovation and entrepreneurial ingenuity, while at the same time it is the recounting of how Americans have come to perceive and value the natural world.


Petzy said...

This is very nice post. You can now find Buy Bird Food Online with very little efforts;

Canada Geese Removal NJ said...

Looks like a super interesting read. Congrats!